A study commissioned by the test preparation company Magoosh found that students hoping to ace the GRE can could spend upwards of $9,000 preparing for the exam if they take advantage of all the services available. Taking the GRE doesn’t have to be expensive, however. Learn about free and affordable GRE prep materials that won’t break the bank, and hear from a student who scored a 335 after purchasing only one test booklet.
Affordable GRE Resources
Receiving a good score on the GRE can make the difference in whether or not a student is accepted to their top program choice, and many feel pressure to take advantage of top-tier test prep materials as a way of bettering their chances. Students who can’t afford to spend spend $150 per hour on private tutors or $3,000 for test prep materials aren’t out of luck: lots of affordable and effective resources exist to help them ace the GRE.
GRE Practice Tests
Practice exams can help students establish a baseline, identify subject areas that need the most attention, and measure how much their score has improved while studying. By using questions from previous exams, practice tests help students get a sense of format and expectations. Examinees often use practice exams to mimic testing conditions by adhering to time limits and scheduled breaks.
ETS POWERPREP Practice Tests
Provided by the company that administers the GRE, the practice exams offered via ETS give students the clearest sense of what to expect on testing day.
Kaplan GRE Practice Test
Kaplan’s free practice exam closely mimics questions on the actual GRE, but students who used this practice test also warn that questions may be somewhat harder than those on the actual test. A good option for examinees who want to challenge themselves.
Manhattan Prep Free Test
Although Manhattan Prep’s main offerings are paid services, it does offer a free, full-length practice exam. MH’s practice exam is frequently used as a diagnostic exam for students who want a baseline before beginning to study.
McGraw-Hill Practice Plus Tests
MH is a leader in GRE test preparation materials, but the organization provides a free practice test in addition to paid services. The scoring of this exam is considered to closely match the scoring of the real GRE.
Princeton Review Free GRE Practice Test
Unlike the Kaplan exam that’s considered tougher than the actual GRE, most students who have taken the Princeton Review test say that it’s easier. Students who want to ease into studying without getting discouraged may consider starting with this practice test.
GRE Prep Videos
Students who consider themselves visual learners have myriad resources at their disposal, ranging from professional videos made by GRE prep companies to fellow examinees sharing videos on their YouTube channels.
100 Days of GRE Math Videos
This YouTube channel features 100 daily videos covering mathematical concepts and is a great tool to use alongside a student planner.
9 Study Hacks to ACE the GRE
A former test-taker who scored well on the exam shares her best tips for acing all three sections.
Hacks to Ace the GRE in 2017
A student who achieved a 325 on the GRE shares her study methods, the books she used, and the time she took to properly study for the exam.
Khan Academy Instructional Math Videos
Dozens of videos covering the various types of math on the GRE are provided by KA via the Educational Testing Service website, all free of charge.
Learning Words through Etymology
Crack Verbal offers this simple tool to help students learn about the origins of words, many of which have similar roots.
Magoosh GRE Videos
Magoosh hosts more than 200 videos and has nearly 60,000 subscribers on their YouTube channel.
My GRE Experience
A student who took the test and excelled shares her day-of experience of traveling to the testing center and sitting for the GRE.
The Biggest Mistake GRE Studiers Make
Magoosh provides this video from Chris Lele, the resident GRE expert.
Tips for Mastering the GRE
Anne Curtis, a Master Trainer at The Princeton Review, overviews the GRE and offers insider advice for getting a top score.
Top 52 Words
This video by Perfect Scores highlights some of the most common and frequently missed words on the current version of the GRE.
Get to Know the GRE
What is it?
The Graduate Record Exam, or GRE, is a national standardized test used by thousands of colleges and universities throughout America to assess prospective graduate students. When should it be taken?
Some schools require GRE scores to be submitted with a student’s application, while others don’t require final scores until after degree seekers have begun their studies. Students must also consider whether they want to retake the examination. Because examinees must wait 21 days before retaking the GRE, those additional three weeks must be factored into any timeline.
Who is it for?
Individuals considering advanced degrees, including master’s and PhD programs, are typically required to take this exam. The GMAT has traditionally been the standardized exam for students considering advanced business studies, but the GRE is increasingly being used for these types of degree programs as well.
What does it measure?
The GRE measures a student’s preparedness for advanced study. The current version of the exam covers three main areas: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing. All questions are designed to ascertain whether students have the skills needed to succeed at the graduate level.
Why must it be taken?
In addition to examining a candidate’s fitness for a graduate degree program, the GRE can also be beneficial in terms of financial funding opportunities. Examinees with high GRE scores are more likely to receive scholarship, grant and assistantship funding to help offset the high costs of graduate school.
Where is it taken?
Educational Testing Service, the organization tasked with overseeing the GRE, offers thousands of testing centers throughout the country. After registering, examinees can search for their closest test center.
GRE Tutoring, Classes & Study Groups
Solitary studying is effective for many students, yet others thrive on interaction with other examinees or opportunities to ask questions of qualified trainers. The problem with many tutoring services and prep classes, however, is that they cost a lot of money. Online classes typically start at $400, while the most expensive can cost more than $2,000. Students trying to stick to a budget need affordable options, and thankfully many exist.
Join or Form a GRE Study Group
In addition to providing thousands of social opportunities for making new friends, MeetUp has a number of established GRE study groups throughout America. The platform also allows users to create new groups if one doesn’t currently exist in their region.
My Study Partner
This beta service is designed to let individuals work together to find study partners for the GRE. Regardless of whether your study partner is in the same state or a different country, the service is designed for students to help one another achieve their best scores.
Local GRE Classes
Although classes provided by large GRE prep companies tend to be expensive, lots of community centers and local colleges now provide GRE courses for a fraction of the cost. Norwalk Community College in Connecticut is one example, which provides seven sessions for $179.
Free Tutoring at Colleges
As evidenced by Vanderbilt University, numerous colleges and universities offer free GRE tutoring and classes that are overseen by current grad students. Although these types of programs are only available to current undergraduates of the institution, GRE scores are good for five years so it may be worth taking advantage of free tutoring and sitting the exam after graduation.
GRE Prep Apps
It may not always be possible to sit with a GRE prep guide for four hours, but 10-minute pockets of time while waiting in a doctor’s office or taking the train can translate to study time. Applications, which can be downloaded to smartphones or tablets, provide examinees quick access to testing material that can be digested quickly.
This free Apple app gives access to hundreds of GRE questions via a self-paced studying model.
GRE Prep by Galvanize
In addition to providing hundreds of practice questions, this app also offers explanations when students get questions wrong.
Illustrate: Video Dictionary
This Android app is designed to help students study for the GRE’s verbal section and includes 5,000 vocabulary words.
Designed by MIT students, IntelliVocab uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to adapt vocabulary words to students as they continue studying.
Magoosh GRE Prep App
Available via Google Play and iTunes, Magoosh’s app provide access to 40 free questions, 70 free video lessons, and lots of tips and tricks for studying.
Official GRE Guide Mobile App
Provided by ETS, this iTunes app costs $4.99 and provides a range of practice questions and writing prompts. Students can pay an additional $19.99 to access more content.
Studying is a serious business, but PrepGame adds a little fun to the mix by keeping track of high scores, letting proficient students unlock new levels, and even providing gold stars.
Pocket GRE Math
A free app available via iTunes, students can access more than 800 quantitative aptitude and reasoning questions.
Offered as both an Android and iPhone app, Ready4GRE lets students earn points by taking quizzes and is also customizable in terms of difficulty.
Varsity Tutors GRE Mobile App
In addition to providing paid materials, Varsity makes this app with practice tests, quizzes, flashcards, and diagnostic tests available for free.
GRE Study Guides
Study guides have been around for years, and there’s a good chance that most GRE test-takers have already encountered one of these types of resources while studying for the SAT or ACT for college. Today’s study guides aren’t relegated to printed editions, with many test prep companies now offering e-book versions that can be accessed on the go. Study guides tend to be a cost-effective measure since they are usually less expensive than attending a GRE class or receiving private tutoring.
Kaplan’s GRE Prep Plus for 2018
In addition to text-based practice questions, Kaplan’s latest study guide includes added online practice questions and a range of video lessons that are accessible to anyone who purchases the book for under $25. More than 2,000 practice problems are included in the latest version.
Manhattan Prep’s Five Pound Book of GRE Practice Problems
Priced at only $24.99, this affordable resource includes more than 2,000 practice problems covering every subject and type of question that a student might encounter on the official GRE exam.
Manhattan Prep’s Set of Eight Strategy Guides
The most comprehensive study guide currently available, MH’s set includes six quantitative and two verbal guides with in-depth studies on math, verbal, and analytical writing content. The set is currently priced at $120 for new books, but current versions can also be found gently used.
The Princeton Review’s Cracking the GRE Guide
Priced at $16.31, this study guide includes four practice tests and focuses on general test strategies in addition to content review. Each section of the GRE is given a separate chapter and additional practice questions. Users can also access additional online materials.
The Official Guide to the GRE General Test
The ETS provides this comprehensive and authoritative study guide, which includes actual GRE study questions – a benefit that only ETS can offer as the official provider of the GRE. The latest edition, which is priced at $40, includes the official guide alongside practice question packs for quantitative reasoning and verbal reasoning.
Functioning similar to iCal or a traditional daily calendar, GRE planners help make the process of studying for the exam feel less overwhelming by breaking study sessions into daily activities. Rather than studying without purpose or plan, this type of preparation aid divides the material into manageable portions that can be completed each day. Planners also come in various lengths to help students with a few weeks or a few months of study time before exam day.
1-8 Week Study Planners
My GRE Tutor offers one, two, three, four, six, and eight-week planners to help students with varied lengths of time to study before the big day.
30 Day Study Planner
This one-month version of a planner breaks down each day and incorporates various materials and practice tests to give students a well-rounded view of the exam in a short amount of time.
90 Day Study Planner
Magoosh provides four different 90-day study plans for beginners, advanced students, and those who want to focus specifically on the math or verbal portions of the GRE.
Axilogy GRE Student Planner
A 365-day paper planner, Axilogy’s offering is a perfect companion to the student who starts preparing to ace the GRE a full year before sitting the exam. This planner is currently available for $20.
Create Your Own Study Plan
Students who do better by creating a plan of their own can use Kaplan’s free list of tips for designing an effective study schedule, regardless of how much time they have before the exam.
GRE Prep Money-Saving Strategies & Tips
Studying for and taking the GRE can add up to thousands of dollars for students who engage tutors, buy new textbooks, and take advantage of the many add-on services available to examinees. The test costs over $200, and students who end up taking the test multiple times can spend hundreds of dollars on the exam alone. Frequently asked questions about saving money on the GRE are addressed below.
Are discounts available to active service members or veterans?
Yes. Under both the GI Bill and Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES), active service members and veterans can be reimbursed for registration fees, specialized test fees, and administrative fees. To be eligible for reimbursements, applicants must hold a current “Armed Forces of the United States” identification card, be taking the GRE for the first time, be applying to a graduate program that explicitly requires GRE scores, and apply for reimbursement within 90 days of the testing date. No funds are available for study materials, expedited test scores, or other optional fees associated with the exam.
Are there scholarships or help for paying for any of this?
Yes. Magoosh partnered with Crush Empire in late 2016 to offer an annual scholarship to students seeking financial support for the exam. The scholarship, worth $500, also provides exclusive and advanced access to Magoosh GRE prep materials, including countless video lessons, a handful of practice exams, more than a thousand practice questions, and many other helpful features. The deadline for this yearly scholarship is May 31.
Could you get an employer to pay?
Possibly. Employer tuition reimbursement programs are becoming increasingly more common and the IRS allows employers to deduct as much as $5,250 from annual taxation for students receiving these benefits. The majority of employees specify that funds must be used strictly for tuition, but then again it never hurts to ask. This is especially true for prospective students employed by smaller companies who plan to complete a degree relevant to the organization’s mission.
Does the testing service administering the GRE offer any discount?
Yes. Educational Testing Service, the GRE administrator, offers fee reduction programs to students who meet two different types of requirements. Prospective students with financial need who can prove that they have applied for or are receiving financial aid may be eligible, provided they can supply documentation. Additional rules based on if the student is still a dependent also apply when deciding whether or not they are eligible via financial need rules. If approved, students receive a 50 percent discount on the cost of taking the GRE.
A second type of discount is given to unemployed students who can prove that they are at least 18 years old, are American citizens, and have proof of receiving unemployment benefits within the previous 90 days. Students who pass these requirements are only required to pay half the regular cost of taking the GRE.
A Student Discusses Taking the GRE Affordably
Klint Kanopka took the GRE in August of 2016 and scored 165 on qualitative, 170 on quantitative, and 5.5 on writing. He achieved these grades by spending approximately $25 on a GRE book published by The Princeton Review. Kanopka will start a Ph.D. in Science Education at Stanford University this fall. Prior to taking the exam, Kanopka served as a physics teacher in the Philadelphia School District for eight years. In this role, he coached First FTC Robotics, forensics, and taught various levels of math courses.
How can examinees best leverage free/affordable resources without sacrificing a higher score?
The big trick with the GRE (and standardized testing in general) is the questions themselves aren’t extremely hard, but the pressure of the format is. As such, the most important thing anyone can do is take full-length timed practice tests under similar conditions. I started my prep about a month before I was scheduled to take the exam and the prep book I bought included two full length scored practice tests. My plan was to first go through the book, familiarize myself with the types of questions I’d be asked and then practice them in an untimed format. Once I was familiar with all the different types of questions and their instructions, I took the first practice exam.
In your opinion, what’s the best undervalued resource currently available?
The library. In addition to taking advantage of GRE study materials within its collection, I also took a practice exam in a Philadelphia Free Library cubicle to try to simulate the environment as best I could. I brought some earplugs to block out the sound.
What’s your best advice for students preparing to sit the exam?
After taking the first practice test, take a few days to review the types of questions that you did the worst on and then take a second practice test. Make sure you set aside some time every day to do GRE practice work. Schedule two practice exams before testing day, and take them seriously. Look for materials that offer the largest number of timed, full-length, computerized practice tests – these will make your preparation budget do the most work for you.
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